If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that although I am a Health Coach, I am by no means a clean-eating little angel. I still have setbacks from time to time, and I’m pretty certain that no matter how much progress I continue to make, I will struggle with emotional eating to some degree for the rest of my life. And truthfully, most days I am cool with that. I have finally accepted my reality, and it feels better to embrace it than waste energy fighting it.

When I have a slip-up, I don’t really get upset about the extra calories I’ve consumed. It’s more about why I over-indulged that bugs me, which more times than not is for an emotional reason. It also is usually on food that is not all that good or worth it. That’s the worst! I pretty much never feel guilty about consuming treats I really love because they are just so darn tasty.

Butterlane cupcakes in the East VillageButterlane cupcakes. The guilty pleasure I don’t feel guilty about.

So, onto my confession…
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Meal planning can be stressful, especially if you have other people in your household to consider. I had a co-worker years ago who argued with her husband on a regular basis about what they were going to have for dinner. While I still can’t full comprehend how a daily meal can cause that much drama, I can certainly appreciate how hard it can be to get dinner on the table after a full work day. On the flip side, my husband has been out of town for work a lot during the past month, so I’ve been setting a table for one most nights. I now have a new appreciation for how hard it can be to be motivated to cook for just one person.

But no matter what your current status is, I have a few tips that I’ve picked up over the years that have made meal planning a little easier:

1. Find your staple foods. I always tell my clients to find their staple foods. These are the items you structure your grocery list around and have on hand for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Ideally, they are interchangeable and easily adaptable foods. I bring the same kale salad to work for lunch almost daily, but because my kitchen is usually prepared with whole grains, nuts, legumes and veggies, I can mix and match and add/subtract from the usual recipe when my taste buds are getting bored.

This roasted red pepper soup recipe is easy to make and delicious.And I try to always have the ingredients for this Roasted Red Pepper Soup readily available because my husband loves it. It literally couldn’t be easier to make and I pair it with different veggies, depending on what I have or what we are in the mood for.

Related: The benefits of kale + how to make kale chips

3. Be efficient with your time. Sure, there are times when I need to just chill out on the couch and not think about my never-ending to-do list. And that’s fine. It helps me recharge and keeps me motivated in the long-term. But most of the time I am looking for opportunities to get something done, whether it’s designating two hours on Sunday afternoon to make my lunches for the week, or simply chopping veggies for that night’s dinner while I wait for my turn in the bathroom. Whenever I have the time, I think about how I could be using it wisely to make my life easier later. Experiment and see what works for you. I used to put a lot of pressure on getting EVERYTHING done on the weekends (food shopping/prepping/planning), but that just wasn’t fun or sustainable. Now, at the beginning of each week I have a loose plan on how I will execute meal prep, and I stay flexible and make adjustments to it as needed. If you are prepared with your staple foods, it won’t be that hard.

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